Learn how to cultivate and grow Cacti and Succulents with this online course. Understand their cultural requirements, propagation techniques and pests and diseases.

Course Code: VHT108
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Cacti and Succulent Course

  • Learn to identify and grow hundreds of different cacti and succulents by self paced distance education.
  • Expand your horticultural knowledge, or just explore plants you have a passion for

Growing cacti and succulents can be rewarding, but the correct conditions must be created to produce the most satisfying growth. Succulents are frequently easy to grow, but it can be harder to grow superb specimens. The main requirements of cacti and succulents is strong light, adequate drainage, and to be sufficiently dry during any dormant period.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Physiology
    • Information sources
    • Three Cacti tribes -Perskia, Opuntia, Cerus
    • Main succulent genera
    • Pronouncing Names
  2. Culture A.
    • Planting
    • Staking
    • Mulching
    • Soils
    • Feeding
    • Pruning etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating cacti & succulent plants
    • Propagation of selected varieties
    • Seed, Cuttings, Grafting
  4. Using Cacti & Succulents
    • Edible succulents
    • Garden Design
    • Garden Styles
    • Mexican gardens
    • Using Colour
    • Rock Gardens
    • Growing Cacti or Succulents in containers
  5. Culture B.
    • Pest & Disease
    • Irrigation
    • Greenhouse growing
  6. Cacti developing your plant knowledge.
    • General guidelines for growing cacti
    • Review of Cacti Genera
    • Zygocactus -featured plant
  7. Succulents developing your plant knowledge.
    • Review of Succulent Families
    • Bromeliads -featured plants
    • Kalanchoe
    • Sansevieria
  8. Special Project
    • PBL - Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of either Cacti OR Succulents suited to growing in a specified locality.


  • Develop knowledge of botanical naming conventions and their application in understanding the horticultural potential of cacti and succulents.
  • Evaluate needs then select or improve growing media for cacti and succulents
  • Propagate different types of cacti and succulents
  • Explain a range of uses for cacti and succulents
  • Manage growing conditions for cacti and succulents
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of cacti.
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of succulents.

 Where to Use Cacti and Succulents

Cacti and Succulents can be used in just about any garden, and in most temperate or tropical climates.

The way you use these plants will however depend upon:

  • The species you choose to use (You should try to pick those that are already proven in your locality; particularly if you are new to growing cacti and/or succulents)
  • The climate you live in (If it gets too wet or cold, you may be better growing plants in containers, which can be more easily managed)
  • The use you wish to put these plants to (eg. You may envisage them as simply something hardy and trouble free; or perhaps you are choosing them for their architectural or structural appearance. Some people grow these plants with an intention of using them to decorate a paved courtyard; or even to bring inside as indoor plants).

Many cacti and succulents grow well with little or no special care. Others, however, may require regulated climates or other particular conditions. Some may be susceptible to particular pest, disease or environmental problems. Maintaining the correct conditions, and the accurate and timely identification and control of plant problems all contribute to a healthy succulent collection.


Tips for Growing Cacti

The Cactaceae family is diverse, and there are species that can be grown in most places where humans live. For the majority of cacti though, the following requirements:

  • Four hours or more of direct sunlight every day (A notable exception are some “Jungle cacti” that need lots of medium light, but never direct bright light)
  • Most can be grown indoors and will tolerate low humidity. Flowering can be impaired indoors though if temperatures are relatively even all year; as a colder period over winter is needed for many in order to stimulate flowering in spring.
  • Water when growing, avoid watering when growth slows.
  • Avoid over watering at all times. Capillary watering in summer often results in death (eg. Standing a potted cacti in a saucer of water)
  • Do not water pots unless they are dry. Even large pots or tub planted specimens should not be watered unless the top 2 or 3 cm of the potting media has become quite dry. (Push your finger into the pot to see. For smaller pots, lift up the container and inspect the drainage holes to see if there is any moisture around the hole).
  • Frequency of watering must always relate to what is needed, and can never be calculated to be done at regular intervals. Recognise that different plants in the same collection can dry out at different rates, and those rates can vary from time to time throughout the year.
  • Generally cacti don’t require a lot of fertilizer (commonly half to one quarter as much as is applied to other plants)
  • Most prefer to be pot bound; so regular repotting is not necessary. Plants in the ground can also do well in confined spaces, such as pockets in a rockery.


  • Increase the number of Cacti and Succulent species and cultivars which you know.
  • Develop a foundation for understanding different groups of Succulents and Cacti. This will make it easier to learn, understand and retain information whenever you encounter new species or cultivars in the future.
  • Discover how extensive the study of Cacti and Succylents can be - the more you learn, the more you will realize there is to learn.
  • Improve your capacity to propagate and grow Cacti and Succulents in different places (containers and the ground), and in different ways.
  • Begin to establish a reputation as an expert with Cacti and Succulents.


Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has

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